God is teaching us through Haggai that the uncleanness of this world can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot!
In like manner, preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person, because in this lesson, it represents something internal—a matter of the heart. It is an intangible spiritual thing that accrues as a result of spending long periods of time learning, understanding, and honing one's spiritual skills. It is too late when a skill is needed immediately, and it is not there.
The same is true of character. It cannot be borrowed or lent. We cannot borrow a relationship with God. It is non-transferable as holiness is non-transferable. This teaches us that opportunity knocks, and then it passes.
The foolish virgins of Matthew 25 failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom might come later than expected. When they were awakened by the shout, there was no time to do anything except to fill their lamps.
Nobody can deliver his brother. Each person within his relationship with God determines his own destiny. The Laodicean's faith has become perfunctory (Revelation 3:15-19). He attends church and is involved socially with brethren, but in daily life and private times, he merely goes through the motion in much the same manner as the Israelites in Amos' day (see, for instance, Amos 5:1-27).
God shows that those unprepared are not admitted to His Kingdom, but this should not be construed as a callous rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire. For, unless the Laodicean repents, he has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis—day after day declining to do God's will, even though it is in his mind to desire the Kingdom. He is not taking care of business, so God gives the Laodicean what he shows by his life what he really wants.
This is the principle of reciprocity. It is similar to an unmarried person who, despite surface appearances to the contrary, never makes preparations for his or her coming marriage. Suppose a man meets a woman who could become his future mate, but even though there may be admiration on his part, the relationship never develops because the woman does little or nothing to show her own admiration. A Laodicean is like this woman, rarely showing any affection for God, too busy to deepen the relationship.
We have to seek God—that is our part. It cannot be casual. It has to be zealous. Is that not what God says to the Laodicean? "Be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year
To both questions the priests give a correct answer. Using the laws of clean and unclean, God points out a principle that applies to Christians today. Very simply, God says that it is impossible for God's holiness, in us because of our relationship with Him and the indwelling of His Spirit, to pass from us to the world. In other words, if a holy thing touches a profane thing, the profane item does not become holy.
On the other hand, the attitude of the world, if it comes in contact with His people, can pass from the world into us. Using the above wording, if a profane thing touches a holy thing, the holy item is contaminated. The spiritual principle for today's Christian is obvious: The world will contaminate your holiness, if you are not on guard against it.
Reading these verses from The Living Bible makes God's meaning very clear. Though it is not an exact translation, but a thought-for-thought paraphrase, the point is correct.
Ask the priests this question about the law: "If one of you is carrying a holy sacrifice in his robes, and happens to brush against some bread or wine or meat, will it too become holy?" "No," the priests replied. "Holiness does not pass to other things that way." Then Haggai asked, "But if someone touches a dead person, and so becomes ceremonially impure, and then brushes against something, does it become contaminated?" And the priests answered, "Yes." Haggai then made his meaning clear. "You people," he said (speaking for the Lord), "were contaminating your sacrifices by living with selfish attitudes and evil hearts—and not only your sacrifices, but everything else that you did as a 'service' to me." (Haggai 2:11-14)
The people, having absorbed the prevalent attitude of the world, became infected by it. As we have seen repeatedly, their relationship with God quickly deteriorated into estrangement—just as the Laodicean's does.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism
Haggai 2:11-14 illustrates the impossibility of holiness being transferred from one to another, and by contrast, how easily defilement is transmitted. The sanctity of something or someone dedicated to God cannot be transferred merely by contact with another. However, the defilement of an unclean thing transfers easily to the clean, defiling it!
Washing is the primary means of ceremonial purity. From these biblical examples, John Wesley's well-known comment, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," arose. He realized that cleanliness is somehow related to what God is like and that personal hygiene has a spiritual dimension. Indeed, the very first mention of washing in Scripture is when Abraham's hospitality to his three visitors includes providing water to wash their feet (Genesis 18:4). This symbol of hospitality and servanthood reaches its zenith when Jesus includes it as part of the New Covenant Passover ritual.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart
Uncleanness, or the defilement of this world, can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot. Likewise, righteousness, character, and preparedness for God's Kingdom cannot be transferred from person to person because they represent internal qualities, matters of the heart.
Holy character and righteousness are personal matters, intangibles that accrue from spending long periods of time learning, applying, and honing spiritual skills in the daily experiences of life. It is too late when one needs a skill immediately, and it is not there. The same is true of character: It cannot be borrowed. Perhaps more importantly, we cannot borrow a relationship with God.
This ought to teach us that opportunity knocks and then passes. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the foolish virgins fail to anticipate the possibility that the Bridegroom might come later than they expect. When they are awakened, there is no time to do anything except fill their own lamps. This proves that nobody can deliver his brother. Each person, within his relationship with God, determines his own destiny.
The Laodicean's faith, however, has become perfunctory. He attends church and is involved with brethren socially, but privately, he merely goes through the motions in much the same way as the Israelites did in Amos' day. Absent is the fervency that develops through careful analysis and evaluation of the world and its corrupt promises against God and His holy promises.
God shows that the unprepared will not be admitted to His Kingdom. We should not construe this as a calloused rejection of a person's perhaps lifelong desire, but we should realize that the Laodicean has rejected the Kingdom of God on a daily basis over a long time! God is not unfair in His judgment. He gives the Laodicean what he showed he wanted. God reciprocates in kind.
Perhaps we can understand God's judgment if we imagine what ours would be if we were engaged to someone who never prepares for our upcoming marriage. What person would want a wife or a husband who had no enthusiasm for the marriage? Or perhaps we can compare it to a person who meets someone who would make a wonderful mate, but despite having ample opportunity and mutual admiration, the relationship never develops due to the other's being constantly distracted.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Haggai 2:11:
2 Corinthians 5:14-18